It is well-known that on a certain evening in Hamburg, a summer night in 18__, a concert was held which permanently afflicted all in attendance gravely and irreversibly. No one knows—or will tell—how such a collection of instruments were made to play in harmony; no one knows—or will tell—how such dumb constructs of wood, brass, and bone came to possess such powers as they had.
Some whisper that the Devil himself was the conductor that night; others say no, it was merely a man (Herr Manfred Fleigruben, of the Hamburg Academy, according to the programme) who somehow picked up Charon’s baton instead of his own. No person who attended the concert could ever shake the shadow of despair from their shoulders henceforth, and many became wretches from that evening till the grave.
In the years since the incident, no full account has been made of the particulars. Contemporaneous articles speak vaguely of the concert’s ‘effect’, or allude cryptically to its ‘consequence’. The sole surviving copy of the programme in the Royal Library has now faded into illegibility, presumably due to poor paper-storage protocols in that darkest sub-basement of the Reference Archive.
It is said that all attendees of the concert died childless—even those who had already had children. The concert hall itself burned to the ground within a month; Germany was at war with France within the year.
Yet tales remain. Forensic analysis of surviving roof-beams (long since up-cycled into Frankfurt dining-tables) have revealed minute vibrational impressions left in the soft Bavarian wood. Eight years ago, a stack of copper photogravures from that night was unearthed in a Helsinki flea-market, labelled simply as ‘ihmisiä musiikilla’. And time-travelling tourists have left no end of oblique references to the event in various classified advertisements throughout the decades.
Like many of the marvels from before the age of film and electronics, the concert exists as a ghostly impression upon history, an ill-remembered, fading scar on humanity’s craggy, lumpen corpus. We shall spend one year opening that wound to see what jewels it may contain.
Here, for the first and only time, is what was heard on that evening, a night black, without any stars.
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